Media Incompetence

In Forbes, Michael Fumento writes Why Didn’t the Media Do a Better Job regarding the coverage of the Toyota accelerations.  His secondary headline is In their Toyota coverage reporters aren’t letting facts get in the way of a good story.

Here’s the lead paragraph:

The jig seems to be up on the runaway-Toyota scare. Mounting evidence indicates that those Toyotas truly accelerating suddenly can probably be explained by sliding floor mats (since fixed) and drivers hitting the gas instead of the brake. That is, the media have been chasing a will-o’-the-wisp for the better part of a year, whipping car buyers and Congress into a frenzy.

Fumento then asks:

Shouldn’t the accounts of alleged unintended acceleration deaths have been subjected to a little checking?

More specifics:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses the term “allegedly” in listing the number of deaths possibly related to unintended acceleration. Yet too many reporters ignore that caveat. Thus, a U.S. News & World Report blog-post headline proclaimed: “NHTSA: 89 Deaths Caused by Unintended Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles.” The Los Angeles Times stated in a headline that sudden acceleration “led to” the deaths. A New York Post headline early on declared that faulty Toyotas ( TM news people ) “have killed” 52 people. A CBS News Web headline (over an Associated Press story) similarly said the acceleration car fault “has killed” 89. (USA Today has been more careful in emphasizing the tenuous connections.)

In a recent conversation with a family member, I tried to explain why I didn’t renew the subscription to my local paper.  I said I can’t read the articles because they they present one side of the issue as if it’s the only reasonable explanation, ignore other possible explanations and present faulty information.

I was told that I didn’t like it because they don’t think like me.  Nice straw man.  But, that’s not it.  It’s that they are incompetent in doing their job.

The mainstream media has lost its credibility with me because they don’t seem interested in doing their homework, fact checking and doing what reporters are suppose to do – report the facts.   I know that’s boring.  That doesn’t win prizes or get picked up by CNN, but it’s their job.

Later Fumento wrote about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Toyota complaint database:

One entry concerns Joseph Mele, who court records say last August crashed into a guard rail at over 100mph while driving a Toyota Scion. His best friend was trapped and burned alive. Witnesses told authorities he’d been smoking pot and was plastered, and a police officer stated he smelled strongly of booze. He’s awaiting trial, charged with, among other crimes, vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol (something the Los Angeles Times, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for its Toyota coverage, failed to mention in a February story).

If true, that’s concerning.  Esteemed prizes are being given for what?  Shoddy work?  Following the groupthink mental model?

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